A History of Our Song

The Notre Dame Folk Choir began singing in the late 1970's during a time of great changes in the liturgy. With the advent of the 1980's, the choir moved far beyond the conventional definition of a "folk group." There are now more than four dozen men and women's voices along with flute, organ, violins, guitar, string bass, Celtic harp, cello, and bodhran (Irish drum). On special occasions during the liturgical year, a brass contingent adds another dimension to their praise. The choir has successfully achieved a remarkable synthesis of organ and guitar technique, bridging the gap between contemporary compositions of a post-Vatican II church community and the rich expression of traditional choral repertoire.

Our musical offerings have been gathered from all parts of the world. Special emphasis is placed on contemporary music, sung almost entirely in four-part harmony. Many of these arrangements are exclusive to the folk choir, having been arranged by their directors and a variety of other composers active in the field of sacred music—most notably, Rev Chrysogonus Waddell, O.C.S.O., former choirmaster of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Our choral library is enhanced by music from Ireland, France, and Mexico, and has even included selections in Russian and Mandarin Chinese. Some selections are by the great masters, and even the classic hymn tunes of our early American tradition contribute to our work. Choral music from the African continent, exuberantly performed in four-part harmony and accompanied by an array of percussion instruments, is featured prominently in our repertoire.

While the choir is primarily an undergraduate organization, there is an increasing number of graduate students, faculty, and professional staff from the university who have joined in recent years. The camaraderie between students and professionals within the academic community is one of the things that makes this group unique at Notre Dame.

The choir serves the University of Notre Dame as one of its principal liturgical choirs, singing every Sunday during the academic year at the 11:45 A.M. liturgy. In addition, they lend their talents to dedication services, vespers, memorial liturgies, penance services, weddings, ordinations, and a host of other worship celebrations which form a vital part of the fabric of worship on campus.

Starting in the mid-1980's, the Notre Dame Folk Choir began to make national and international tours as a part of its regular ministry. It was Notre Dame's first liturgical choir to tour overseas when it traveled to Ireland in 1988. The choir returned to Ireland in '90, '92, '94, '97, 2000, '03, '04, and '08. They included England in their 1992 and 2000 tours, performing for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Reverend George Carey, and their 2008 tour took them to Scotland for the very first time before they journeyed back once again to Dublin to sing a Mass at Trinity College with His Eminence Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh. Their regular trips overseas have taken them to parishes rich and poor, from the cathedrals and churches of Canterbury, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Galway, to the flats and tenements of Boha Mór and Ballymon.

In August 1993 the folk choir was one of a handful of American choirs invited to sing for World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado and for His Holiness John Paul II at the concluding Papal Liturgy. Nationally, the folk choir visited the major cities of the Great Lakes region in 1991, New England in the spring of 1995, and the Pacific Northwest in 2006. In 1993 the choir began taking shorter, more condensed mini-tours during breaks in the academic year. These trips, spanning a long weekend, have taken them to Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the greater Chicago area. All of these tours form part of an important service of collaboration with the parishes and liturgy centers of the Church beyond our campus.